is a small town located at the junction of the Bulkley
and Skeena Rivers
in northern British Columbia
. It was founded in 1866
and has a population of 1356. New Hazelton is also the northernmost point of the Yellowhead Highway
, a major interprovincial highway which runs from Prince Rupert, British Columbia
to Winnipeg, Manitoba
The Hazelton area comprises two municipalities (the Village of Hazelton and District of New Hazelton), three unincorporated settlements (South Hazelton, Two Mile and the Kispiox Valley), and four First Nations’ villages of the Gitxsan people - (Gitanmaax, Hagwilget, Glen Vowell and Kispiox).
First Nations history
The Hazeltons are home to the Gitxsan
and Wet'suwet'en First Nations
Old Hazelton and Two Mile
Hazelton is one of the oldest settlements in Northern British Columbia, its European settlement dates back to 1866 when the Collins Overland telegraph
Hazelton was the original gateway and staging area for the Omineca Gold Rush of 1869-73. Besides the hunt for riches, there was one other important reason to visit: it had the only proper hospital for hundreds of miles in any direction. One of its other, less appreciated, distinctions was in having dozens of roaming, foraging and howling sled dogs, as nearly everyone had their own team and many were allowed to run free. Transportation options got better in 1891 when the Hudson's Bay Company’s sternwheeler Caledonia arrived from Port Essington. Being the head of navigation on the Skeena, Hazelton was to play host to more than a dozen sternwheelers throughout the next twenty-two years.
Two Mile was a community two miles out of Hazelton. During the gold rush and rail construction, it was home to a roadhouse and a prosperous red-light district.
New Hazelton and South Hazelton
When it was announced in 1903, that the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
would be coming through near Hazelton, another flurry of excitement erupted and hundreds of settlers poured into the district, buying whatever land they could get a hold of. Everyone was certain there was a fortune to be made and Hazelton was widely advertised as the "Spokane of Canada". What made Hazelton even more attractive was her mines, the Silver Standard and the Rocher de Boule. In 1911 two rival town-sites, Robert Kelly’s New Hazelton and the Grand Trunk Pacific’s South Hazelton both came into existence and competed to sell the most lots. Thus, the original Hazelton was called "Old" and they all became known as the "Three Hazeltons". Where the railway station would be built was an issue for many years until both South and New Hazelton received one.
The first car in Hazelton 1911
The first car, a Flanders 20, arrived in Hazelton on October 5th, 1911. It came from Seattle. It did not arrive by rail, which wouldn't be completed from Prince Rupert until 1912, nor did it come in by sternwheeler. It was brought in overland. None of the people in town believed that story, as it was nearly impossible to walk into Hazelton overland in 1911, much less drive. Everyone went to go see the car where it was parked in front of the Hazelton Hotel and questioned the owner, PE Sands, on how he had accomplished the feat. At a banquet held in his honor later that evening, Sands revealed his secret. He had brought along two mechanics and they had often had to disassemble the car and load it unto mules. Clearly they'd had enough of doing that by the time they reached Hazelton. They packed the car up on a sternwheeler and went to Vancouver.
The Union Bank robberies of 1913 and 1914
In November 1913, the Union Bank at New Hazelton was robbed by armed gunmen. In the commission of the crime, a young bank teller by the name of Jock McQueen was mortally wounded. Even though a posse was swiftly formed to go after them, the bandits got away with $16,000, a great deal of money in those days.
The second robbery occurred on April 7th, 1914, already a red letter day for the area as the last spike of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was being driven 180 miles away in Fort Fraser. Little did anyone know that an equally historic event was about to happen right there in New Hazelton, one that would be remembered in hundreds of Canadian history books. Luckily, someone was there with a camera. Those pictures would become among the most famous of that era in British Columbia.
Home of legendary characters
Hazelton was home to several famous and infamous characters.
Cataline, the most famous packer in British Columbia, served Hazelton throughout most of his career and also chose to retire there and died at the Hazelton hospital. People who knew his love for his mules, which he called his “ponees”, were not surprised to hear what his biggest concern about the afterlife was. On the night before he died, Cataline asked his nurse if she believed that God would let him have a least one “ponee” in Heaven. When she replied that she believed He would, Cataline was satisfied and never spoke another word. He is buried at the Hazelton cemetery.
William "Willie" Manson came to Canada from the Shetland Islands
in 1869. In 1871 went to the Omineca
district and staked a claim on a small stream that ran into Babine Lake. His claim was one of the richest ever found in that area at Manson Creek
. Wille, like most of the other gold rush miners, would buy his supplies in Hazelton. Besides having one of the richest claim, one other thing set Willie apart, he was careful with his money. Willie worked the claim himself and then sold out to a mining syndicate and returned to the Shetland Islands. Back at home, he couldn't help but notice the poverty of some of his countrymen and he decided to do something about it. Using his gold rush wealth, he purchased large flocks of sheep from Scotland
and sold them to his neighbors at cost and on credit. Then he built a wool processing mill and a knitting mill, which employed many more Shetland Islanders.
“Dutch” Sperry Cline
"Dutch" Sperry Cline
was a decorated Boer War
veteran, who spent his many years in Hazelton in several different occupations, from mushing the huskies down the frozen Skeena River
to deliver the mail, to canoe freightman, mine boss and frontier policeman.
Black Jack MacDonell
Black Jack MacDonell, who owned the Ingenika Hotel in Old Hazelton had been known from San Francisco
to Dawson City
as the “king of saloon keepers”. In September 1911 on the eve of the federal election, Black Jack kept the Ingenika open, even though it was against the law to do so, and served free drinks all night long. Soon he had many happy and talkative customers who were quite willing to tell him who they were going to vote for. Black Jack didn’t want Laurier
re-elected because of his stance on Free Trade
, so every customer that commented he was going to vote Liberal
found themselves sitting in the jail on drunk and disorderly charges the next day, while the others who were voting Conservative
were all free men.
Harry Tracy’s horse
There was even a famous horse, Tracy who was named after the Pacific Northwest outlaw Harry Tracy
who had stolen him as a colt. With Oregon lawmen hot on his trail, Harry Tracy was forced to abandon the horse, which was returned to its owners and eventually ended up working on a Pat Burns cattle drive from the Chilcotin country before finally winding up in Hazelton.
Carol Huynh - 2008 Freestyle Wrestling Olympic gold medalist
- 'Ksan Historical Village is a world-famous native heritage site located right where the Bulkley and Skeena rivers meet.
- Hagwilget Suspension Bridge is one of North America's highest suspension bridges.
- "Totem Pole Capital of the World" - tour the nearby native villages and see over four dozen classic totem poles.
- Steelhead Fishing can be done at the nearby Kispiox River.
- Kispiox Valley Music Festival is held the last weekend of July.
- Pioneer Day takes place on the second Saturday of August.
- The Far Land, Eva MacLean ISBN 0-920576-41-91
- The Skeena River of Destiny, Dr. RG Large ISBN 1-895811-19-8
- Pioneer Legacy Chronicles of the Lower Skeena River, Norma Bennet ISBN 0-9683026-0-2
- A Thousand Blunders, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Northern British Columbia, Frank Leonard ISBN 0-7748-0532-3